By Angela McLean and Julia Nowicki
The Student Learning Centre (SLC) is piloting a project that will provide feminine hygiene products to the Ryerson community for a minimal cost.
A feminine hygiene product dispenser has been installed in the second floor women’s washroom in the SLC, with pads and tampons available for 50 cents.
Susan Machado, the SLC’s building officer of operations and administration, says the pilot project comes in response to student feedback.
“We collect feedback every day and then we review that feedback on a weekly basis … this was one item that kept surfacing in feedback that people were inquiring about, whether we would be able to solve it,” she said.
The dispensers are not producing any profit for the SLC, with funds only going to pay the supplier.
“This comes out of my budget for building operations,” Machado said, “so that’s why we have to first pilot it and see, you know, is this being used properly, is it even being used, is it something students want and need, and then decide from there.”
In recent months, Ward 13 city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has been a key advocate for the City of Toronto providing free menstrual products to homeless shelters and respite centres across the city.
On March 7, the city approved $222,359 of funding for product dispensers and supplies in over 76 shelters, respite and priority drop-in centres in Toronto, as well as 39 priority neighbourhood recreation community centres.
“You know, back in history, somebody decided that a bathroom properly stocked with products should include paper towel, hand soap, and water and toilet paper, I think that we need to revisit what are the essentials of a bathroom,” Wong-Tam said in an interview with the Ryersonian. “One day my hope is that every single publicly accessible bathroom, whether it’s an office where people are working or whether it’s in a restaurant, is that they should just have these products available free of charge because you know, when people need them, they should have access to them.”
“Just as much as everybody [who] operates a washroom will want to make sure they have enough soap and toilet paper, they should also consider having hygiene and menstrual hygiene products.”
Machado says she expects the dispenser pilot project to run through the summer and last until the fall as the SLC looks at the data they collect on their use.
Yanique Brandford is a third-year medical physics student at Ryerson. She began her own non-profit organization, Help a Girl Out, after experiencing an overwhelming prevalence of period poverty back home in Jamaica. The organization tackles this period poverty by providing care packages and menstrual hygiene products to individuals in need.
“This is something that all women should have,” Brandford said. “I thought being as this is Canada, and we are like one of the best places in the world to live, we have free health care and all this wonderful stuff, I was surprised when I saw like a lot of women going through the same thing here, you know, not being able to afford sanitary products and stuff like that.”
She said that the SLC’s pilot project is a step in the right direction for addressing period poverty and accessibility of menstrual products, but she would like to see the initiative to grow.
“[This] is big for me because a lot of the bathrooms that I go into at Ryerson, the machine is either broken or empty or maybe once in a while you find one that is working. I really need Ryerson specifically to step up their game,” Brandford said. “Whoever made that stuff, I am so proud, to be honest, but I need it to be bigger. Do it on all the floors.”